The Subject Was Roses



Credit for the revival of the 1964 Pulitzer Prize-winning family drama, THE SUBJECT WAS ROSES, now running at the Mark Taper Forum, must go to Martin Sheen. The famous actor was in the original Broadway production of the play, performing the role of Timmy Cleary, the 21-year-old just back from seeing action in WW II. In the cast with Sheen were Jack Albertson and Irene Dailey, who played his feuding parents, John and Nettie.

All three actors were relatively unknown at the time--as was playwright Frank D. Gilroy--but by the time ROSES closed a year later, they had all become stars. Sheen never forgot what ROSES did for his career, which is why he pitched it to the Taper, with the promise to play the father this time around.

ROSES is an intimate, character-driven drama about a son fighting to save the marriage of his unhappy, warring parents. Timmy (Brian Geraghty, a superb young actor) returns in 1946 to the family apartment in an Irish neighborhood in the Bronx. Fresh from the horrors of WW II (he was one of the soldiers who liberated a German concentration camp), Timmy finds himself once again torn by familiar conflicting emotions.

Linked to his over-protective mother by submerged but powerful Oedipal feelings, Timmy fights hard to reach out to his tyrannical, authoritarian father (whose volatile personality also contains flashes of warmth and humor). Timmy struggles mightily to patch things up between John and Nettie, but the long years of a loveless, hostile marriage are too much of a handicap to overcome. In the end, Timmy realizes that the only one he can save is himself.

Director Neil Pepe and his skilled cast (working on a splendid set by Walt Spangler) breathe invigorating life into this 46-year-old play. (Mark Taper Forum, 135 N. Grand Ave. 213-628-2772 or